Published: November 13, 2001
LOUISVILLE, KY. – The Speed Art Museum will open an exhibition of 75 paintings from the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery entitled “A Brush with History; Paintings from the National Portrait Gallery,” November 20. It will run through January 27.
The exhibition includes portraits of American statesmen, artists, inventors, writers, educators and scientists dating from the Eighteenth Century to the present day. The portraits reflect the range of the Gallery’s collection from John Smibert’s (circa 1727) portrait of Anglican clergyman George Berkeley and Charles Willson Peal’s 1769 likeness of Maryland publisher Anne Green – one of American’s first woman publishers – to Andy Warhol’s 1984 Pop portrait of singer Michael Jackson and Ginny Stanford’s 1991 portrayal of renowned food essayist M.F.K. Fisher.
The works demonstrate that unlike other genres – such as landscape paintings – portraits are a collaboration. Each reveals the often complex relationships among the artist, the subject and the patron, when it is a commissioned work. They are further shaped by their intended purpose, whether it is to record a national figure for public display or make a likeness of a loved one or friend for personal use.
Among the highlights are John Singleton Copley’s brilliant self-portrait head of 1780-1784, which shows the artist facing left (a difficult pose that could have involved the use of two mirrors); Henry Inman’s copy of a portrait by Charles Bird King of Cherokee leader Sequoyah (circa 1830) showing him with the alphabet he developed for the Cherokee language; painter Mary Cassatt portrayed by Edgar Degas as a token of friendship (circa 1880-1884); and scientist George Washington Carver’s 1942 portrait by Betsy Graves Reyneau.
The museum, 2035 South Third Street, is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10:30 am to 4 pm; Thursday, 10:30 am to 8 pm; Saturday, 10:30 am to 5 pm; and Sunday, noon to 5 pm. For information, 502-634-2700.
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